Depending on how the Nationals’ pursuit of landing a center fielder in a trade develops in the next few days, there’s a chance Washington will bid on Japanese outfielder Nori Aoki, a team official said. It’s certainly not the Nationals’ first choice, but they’re considering the option in case they cannot find a willing, desirable trade partner.
Aoki will be available through the posting system, in which teams bid on a the right to negotiate with a player, with the winning bid money going to the player’s team. Aoki will be posted shortly after the winter meetings, and so the four-day bidding period should come to a close by the end of next week. The Nationals will have until then to decide if they want to bid on him.
Japanese teams have the option to reject the winning bid if it does not meet a desired threshold. But Aoki’s team, the Yakult Swallows, is expected to accept any winning bid. Aoki will become a free agent after one more season, and so the Swallows will be motivated to not let Aoki leave if they receive no financial compensation in return.
Aoki, 29, is a speedy player whose slap-hitting style would make him a viable leadoff candidate. In his eight-year career, Aoki has consistently been one of the best hitters in Japan, batting .329/.402/.454. He had his worst year by far in 2011, hitting .292/.358/.360 as Japanese baseball suffered a down year for offense after the introduction of a new, smaller ball.
In the field, Aoki covers plenty of ground but has a suspect throwing arm. Aoki’s representatives have compared him to Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino, but one scout familiar with Aoki called that “wishful thinking.”